Opinion

Weddings

I recently saw a reference about using wedding announcements in genealogical research. While I’ve written about using newspapers before I thought I might review the family announcements you’re apt to find. Not so many years ago newspapers devoted pages to engagements and weddings.

The early engagement notices didn’t have photos but later ones usually had only the bride-to-be’s photo. Much later there would be a photo of the engaged couple. Included in the announcement would be the full names of the bride and groom, the names of their parents and where they lived, the bride and groom’s residence and occupations, and the date of the wedding. That’s a nice package of information for a genealogist.

Wedding announcements varied. Sometimes it would be just a line or a small paragraph. That’s especially true of early twentieth century announcements. Still, these contained the names of bride and grooms, where the wedding was held, attendants, minister, parents, and when they would be “at home” to visitors. Of course, not every marriage is included. 

Later in the twentieth century there would be a photo of the bride (ones with the groom date much later), a detailed description of her gown and going away dress or suit, her bridal bouquet, attendants and what they wore, the flowers decorating the altar and church, names of parents, names of soloist, organist, and minister performing the ceremony, where the reception was held, who cut the cake or circulated the guest book, where the couple were going on their honeymoon, and when and where they would be “at home”. Most of these types of announcements don’t run anymore unless the wedding couple are socially prominent, celebrities, wealthy, or noted in a career. Some Sunday papers, notably the New York Times, still has a wedding section with detailed coverage. 

Finding these types of records will depend where your relatives lived. If they were in New York City it will be more of a challenge than say Sangerville. If you don’t know a date look to see if there is an index for certain years. Here in this county The Piscataquis Observer usually carried these kind of announcements and back issues are on microfilm at the Thompson Free Library and the University of Maine’s Folger Library in Orono. Daily regional papers such as the Bangor Daily News have been microfilmed as well and can be searched at the Bangor Public Library and at Fogler Library. Some newspapers have back copies and some local libraries or historical societies have files. Newspaper websites such as Newspapers.com offer a variety of papers you can search. 

You may already have a marriage certificate for a couple but finding a newspaper announcement is a wonderful addition to your research and provides insight into the event. You won’t always find an article as some couples were more private or simply didn’t bother with notifying the paper. But if you can find engagement and/or wedding announcements it is a great addition to your research and you may find information you didn’t know.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft.  Nancy holds an MA in History from UM and lives in DF with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. 

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